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Wootton Bassett…Congratulations

March 14, 2010


Wootton Bassett - biker's welcome

Wootton Bassett, England – In an event designed to show support and respect for United Kingdom troops serving in Afghanistan today over 15,000 motorcyclists rode through the small Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett.

The town, internationally known for the informal public mourning held as hearses containing the bodies of soldiers killed in Afghanistan pass through the town from RAF Lyneham, was today the focus of one of the largest motorcycle ride-ins taking place in the UK this year.

Organised by Julia Stevenson and Elizabeth Stevens via their Facebook group – “Bike Run in Support of Wootton Bassett over 15,000 riders and pillions attended raising more than £100,000 for the charity Afghan Heros. A non-political event the ride-in gave motorcyclists, scooter riders and trikers the opportunity to thank the town of Wootton Bassett and show support and tribute to the men and woman serving in the UK’s Afghan military deployment.

As one rider attending said: “fifteen thousand here so fifteen thousand different reasons for attending. Brilliant just shows what Britain’s bikers can do in support of a charitable cause”.

All positive then? Well from the bikers side yes but comment from Wootton Bassett town mayor Steve Bucknell who said that the “vast majority” of the people in the town “fully support” what the bikers are doing, underlines some interesting issues.

For the last ten days the largest local newspaper reporting on matters in the Wooton Bassett area has gone out of its way to support the local ‘objectors’ to the ride-in.

Yes the Swindon Advertiser seems to have real problem with motorcyclists, eliciting some really interesting quotes from ‘locals’.

Things like:-

“People living in the town have hit out at the event and said not only were townsfolk not consulted, but that the use of the town to make a political statement will set the precedent for other groups”.

“I wholeheartedly support the charity and what these people are doing but the fact remains that they are using Wootton Bassett for a political reason and, apart from their political orientation, they do not differ from what Islam4UK wanted to do”.

“What is particularly perplexing about all this, however, is that this invasion is apparently sanctioned by the police, Wiltshire Council and Ministry of Defence”.

“Along with pollution, disruption and noise, I am angry that the people who live in the town are the last to know anything about this”.

“It seems to me that this is going to encourage more people to come and use Wootton Bassett for political reasons – something we have always been against”.

“Thousands of motorbikes throbbing through the town will be noisy, smelly, thrilling, almost martial – miles away from the quiet, spontaneous and reflective commemorations of young lives lost prematurely”.

“I don’t see why these hairy bikers cannot just do their ride somewhere out in the countryside and just raise money in Wootton Bassett’s name – we don’t want they clogging up our quiet market town”.

“I think the whole idea is horrendous and will now mean anyone wanting to do anything like this will have to have permission. I say ‘leave Wootton Bassett alone’ “.

Free speech, fine, I’m all for it and a lot of people have died protecting our right to it. So the question is would the Swindon Advertiser have gone after other groups in the same way, I’m talking ethnic minority and sexual orientation here, and the answer is of course no. But we seem to be fair game, particularly in the local and regional press, where, no doubt, pencils are being sharpened for the usual spring time ‘you bike you die’ round of articles.

Can we do anything? Well we have everything from ‘Unite Against Fascism’  to ‘Lets Kick Racism Out of Sport’ so coming up with a campaign to ‘Kick the Bias Out of Biking’ should not be difficult. Then there’s the Press Complaints Commission and simple telling ‘them’ that we don’t like it.

So Dave King in my opinion your paper’s coverage of the Wootton Bassett bikers ride-in was pants and you should reconsider your ‘papers’ journalistic approach to motorcycling.

Kick the Bias Out of Biking, your turn!

You can support/donate to Afghan Heros here….

© Back Roads Rider 2010

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